WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: SHONDA RHIMES EDITION

scandal-recap

Alright, I am back with the second edition of Watch This, Not That.  Today, we tackle two Shonda Rhimes creations.  Both shows have been around for awhile and both shows have generated buzz over the years.  But, with so many new shows beginning, especially this fall, I think it may be time to vote one of these shows off the island.  So here we go:  Grey’s Anatomy v. Scandal.  Let the games begin.

Grey’s Anatomy (Thursdays, 9pm, ABC) – I will admit that I have only watched the season premiere of Grey’s.  (I simply did not have the time to watch the second episode last night).  But, I seriously doubt that episode number 2 is going to change my impression.  Let’s be honest.  The season premiere of Grey’s was a mess.  An utter mess.  It seems like they decided to throw every storyline into the first 2 hours.  The Chief is electrocuted and then so is Brooks.  Callie and Arizona breakup and Callie moves in with Meredith and Derek and refuses to let Arizona see the baby.  And, like in every other Grey’s season there is a terrifying natural disaster…this time it’s a storm and a landslide or mudslide (honestly, I can’t remember exactly).  What kills me about Grey’s is that, we are getting the same story over and over again.  It’s now been 9 full seasons (season 10 just started) and it’s the same old stuff.  A lowly intern dies (remember when George died), a couple breaks-up, and a bunch of people are injured by a huge catastrophe.  I am over it Grey’s, over it.  Please just call it quits.

Scandal (Thursdays, 10pm, ABC) – Scandal picks up in it’s season premiere right where it left off.  We see an incredibly intense showdown between Olivia and her father that makes you wonder where in the heck did Olivia come from.  The entire episode centers around the main love triangle in this show–Olivia, Fitz, and Mellie–and how to overcome the fact that Olivia has now been revealed as the President’s mistress.  It’s situations like these that bring out what we love most in these characters:  Mellie and Cyrus turn into the monsters that they are, the Gladiators stay strong and support Olivia, and Fitz becomes the sometimes weak, sometimes strong, man that is always less intelligent than the two women that are the center of his life.  In addition to the scene between Olivia and her father, I thought the scenes between the VP and the President were particularly strong and showed another layer Sally Langston.  All in all, a very strong premiere.

The similarities:  Obviously both shows are Shonda Rhimes creations and are airing on the same network.  Further, both shows star a female lead with a difficult and complicated love life (well, at least Meredith Grey used to have one) and a troubled upbringing.  Further, there are several actors who have played characters on both shows:  Jeff Perry, Scott Foley, Katie Lowes, Josh Malina, Bellamy Young, Kate Burton, George Newberm, Kurt Fuller, Gregg Henry, Debra Mooney, Mark Harelik, Tom Amandes…you get my point.

The verdict:  You can’t argue that Scandal isn’t the better show at this point.  I mean come on.  We all realize that Grey’s has become this old, tired drama that everyone is secretly hoping will announce its cancellation so that we can stop watching (oh, maybe that is only me).  In contrast, Scandal has proven itself to be exciting, interesting, creative, and unpredictable.  Those are hard things to accomplish.  And while admittedly, Scandal had a little rough start, it has now found its groove.  This could not have been any more evident than by the premiere of Season 3–an hour of television that I did not want to end.  So, jump on the Olivia Pope train and let’s try and remember the good years of Grey’s before the life had been sucked out of it.

-LJ

Advertisements

BREAKING BAD FINALE: IT’S NOT A FANTASY PEOPLE!

breaking bad finale car 650

Well, it has been a total of three days since my last Breaking Bad post.  And, it appears that neither I, nor the rest of the internet, is taking a break from commenting on the finale of Breaking Bad.  What appears to have developed in the past few days (in addition to the hilarious gifs) is a theory that the end of Breaking Bad was merely a Walter White fantasy.  (See http://www.buzzfeed.com/daves4/was-the-breaking-bad-finale-all-just-a-fantasy-in-walter-whi discussing this theory that has largely been attributed to Norm MacDonald or simply google “Breaking Bad fantasy”).  Proponents of this theory argue that Walter White died in the frozen car in New Hampshire; thus, everything from that point on was a fantasy of how Walt would have wanted the end of his life to go.  For some inexplicable reason, this theory infuriates me.  I think, in particular, what makes me so mad is that if this theory is true, then Jesse did not get saved and is still slaving away in his own personal hell to make meth for the Nazis.  And that simply is not okay with me.  So, with that, I would like to make a few points regarding why the ending of Breaking Bad actually happened (at least in the world of TV):

1.  Look at the Jesse storyline – The first time we see Jesse in the finale, he is daydreaming about making a wooden box.  This scene is a callback to the Season 3 episode titled “Kafkaesque,” where Jesse tells his rehab group about how he spent an entire semester trying to craft the best wooden box that he possibly could have.  It was a time when Jesse was at his best.  Notably though, Walt was not at the rehab group meeting, so why would Walt have a fantasy that included a callback to a moment in Jesse’s life that Jesse holds dear and that Walt doesn’t know about!  That just doesn’t make sense.

2.  Another point regarding Jesse – At the time Walt gets in the car in New Hampshire, Walt either (1) thinks Jesse is dead, (2) hates Jesse because he blames him for Hank’s death, or (3) both.  The last time Walt saw Jesse he instructed the Nazis to kill him and single-handedly blew Jesse’s world to pieces with his confession about Jane.  So, why in heaven’s sake, would Walt include in a fantasy a portion where he saves Jesse’s life.  Walt doesn’t even believe that Jesse is alive.

*Side point – Also, how would Walt be capable of knowing how Jesse was being chained with a “leash” as Jesse was being forced to cook meth?  Walt’s fantasy magically guessed the exact predicament of Jesse’s forced slave labor.  I don’t think so.

3.  Walt always has crazy plans – People seem to be hinging their fantasy theory partly on the fact that Walt’s machine gun scheme was too unreal and executed too perfectly.  But, let’s be honest people, this isn’t the first crazy scheme that has worked out in Walt’s favor.  Throughout the series we have seen Walt explode Tuco’s clubhouse, poison Brock with Lily of the Valley, execute a heist of a train, and blow-up Gus with a wheelchair bomb.  Walt’s plans have never been entirely grounded in reality.  And, all of these plans have ended up working out in Walt’s favor.  The machine gun scheme is simply another one of these crazy situations that worked out in Walt’s favor.

*Also, it’s not like Walt came out of the machine gun plan unscathed.  He got shot and died!  In other words, his plan wasn’t perfectly executed like some nay-sayers believe.

4.  Why would Walt’s family not get back together – Ok, so if Walt is fantasizing about what he would have done, wouldn’t he have at least had some resolution with Junior.  I am not saying that Walt would have been so delusional as to imagine his entire family would live happily ever after.  But, let’s look at this.  He got closure with Skyler.  He was able to say goodbye to Holly.  And, you expect me to believe in this dying man’s “fantasy” that he simply stares longingly at his son knowing that his son may forever hate him.  I don’t buy that.

5.  Who cares that we don’t see Walt put the ricin in the Stevia – There seems to be some disbelief that Walt could have gotten the ricin in the Stevia packet for Lydia to subsequently use.  But, Breaking Bad is not a show that explains every little detail of Walt’s plans of action.  Did we see how Walt poisoned Brock…no.  Did we see how Walt created the bomb for Hector’s wheelchair…no.  Walt does things off camera and sometimes these are amazing things.  Why would you assume that anything would be different in the finale?

6.  Let’s look at what Vince Gilligan has said – First, Gilligan has explained why the keys appear:  “Well the whole point of the teaser for us in the writer’s room was, ‘What is he doing, is he praying?  Who’s he praying to?  It is god?  Is it the devil?  Who would a guy like Walter White pray to?  And lo and behold, his prayers are answered, and the key is kind of magically waiting for him atop the visor.”  [From the Breaking Bad Insider Podcast].

Second, Gilligan has repeatedly stated that his intention with the ending was for it to be unambiguous.  As Gilligan explained on Talking Bad this week:  “We went through a lot of false starts and endings that went nowhere, but we knew we needed to dot all the Is and cross all the Ts … In some cases unanswered questions are good, but in this case, in a finite and close-ended show, we needed resolution.  The Sopranos ending I thought was great, I thought it was perfect for that show.  This story was finite all along.  It’s a story that starts at A and ends at Z.  It’s a very closed-ended thing.”

This is same sentiment is repeated over and over by Gilligan.  For instance as Gilligan explained in his interview with EW:  “We didn’t feel an absolute need for Walt to expire at the end of the show. Our gut told us it was right. As the writers and I worked through all these different possibilities, it felt right, but I don’t think it was a necessity for us. There was a version we kicked around where Walt is the only one who survives, and he’s standing among the wreckage and his whole family is destroyed. That would be a very powerful ending but very much a kick-in-the-teeth kind of ending for the viewers. We talked about a version where Jesse kills Walt. We talked about a version where Walt more or less gets away with it. There’s no right or wrong way to do this job — it’s just a matter of: You get as many smart people around you as possible in the writers room, and I was very lucky to have that. And when our gut told us we had it, we wrote it, and I guess our gut told us that it would feel satisfying for Walt to at least begin to make amends for his life and for all the sadness and misery wrought upon his family and his friends. Walt is never going to redeem himself. He’s just too far down the road to damnation. But at least he takes a few steps along that path. And I think more importantly for him than that is the fact that he accomplishes what he set out to accomplish way back in the first episode: He leaves his family just a ton of money.  Of course, Walt for years now has been looking through the wrong end of the telescope. … For years now, he thought if he makes his family financially sound — that’s really all he has to do as a man, as a provider, and as a father. They’re going to walk away with just shy of 10 million in cash, because of Walt’s machinations with Gretchen (Jessica Hecht) and Elliott (Adam Godley). But on the other hand, the family emotionally is scarred forever. So it’s a real mixed message at the end. Walt has failed on so many levels, but he has managed to do the one thing he set out to do, which is a victory. He has managed to make his family financially sound in his absence, and that was really the only thing he set out to do in that first episode. So, mission accomplished.”

Finally, I will leave you with this.  If you have ever listened to Vince Gilligan talk about Breaking Bad, you would know in your heart that he has the upmost respect for his fans.  If the end was intended to be a fantasy, the man would have told us that.  And, yet he has not.  The end.

-LJ

What to Watch: October 2013

Each month here on YBTV, I will attempt to provide our faithful readers and overview of what to look forward to in the coming TV month. Last month was a busy one with the beginning of the fall TV season making it almost impossible to include everything in one list. I will attempt to rectify that in some small ways in October, pointing out shows that maybe barely missed the cut back in September.

10. American Horror Story: Coven (FX, Wednesday, October 9 at 9 PM) — Every year I get moderately excited about this show, and every year, after a few episodes, I stop watching and never feel sorry for doing so. I suspect this will be another year of the same, but none-the-less, I’ll be watching for the first few episodes. There’s a lot to like here, great performers (Sarah Paulson, Emma Roberts, Taissa Farmiga, Jessica Lange, etc, etc), a creepy, fun premise. But for whatever reason, within a few episodes, I’m always just kind of bored with it. I find that Ryan Murphy is kind of like Kurt Sutter, but worse. He does things purely for effect, without thinking about their place in the story and whether they offer any intellectual payoff. Or, who knows, maybe this will be the year I finally stick with a season of AHS.

9. Cousins Undercover (HGTV, Sunday, October 6 at 7 PM) — John and Anthony are without a doubt two of the best personalities on all of HGTV/DIY, so whenever they have a show, it is watched in our home. Whether it’s Kitchen Cousins, Cousins on Call or this new show, it’s always entertaining and fun to watch. Plus, you get to see really great contractors doing some really cool home improvements. What’s not to like?

8. ESPN’s 30 for 30 (ESPN, Tuesday nights starting October 1 at 8 PM) — The 30 for 30 series of documentaries is back. While I don’t necessarily know what specific docs are coming up, I know that I’ll be watching them. Not every documentary is legendary, but the batting average for ESPN with these is incredibly high, so missing them is not really an option. We’ve been provided some great storytelling in this series by some great story tellers. Will any of this batch match “Catching Hell,” “June 17, 1994,” “Benji,” or “The Ghosts of Ole Miss?” I don’t know, given the track record, I would expect at least some of them to do so.

7. Eastbound and Down (HBO, Sunday nights at 9 PM) — This is the first example of a show that started right at the end of Septmeber that I didn’t get a chance to talk about last month. The return of Kenny Powers definitely deserves some attention though, so here it is. We all thought season 3 was going to be the final chapter of the Kenny Powers story, but you can’t kill Kenny Powers quite that easily. So here he is, back for one last run at making it back to the big leagues, and surely providing us with one last round of incredibly offensive humor. Welcome back Kenny Powers.

6. Strike Back season 4 finale (Cinemax, Friday, October 18 at 9 PM) — A show that has no business being as good as it is finishes out another excellent season later this month. Cinemax’s first attempt at original programming, I honestly expected it to be something suited only for Cinemax audiences. And while it does have a lot of those traits to it, it also includes excellent characters and character development. You don’t necessarily come to Strike Back for the story (you come for the guns, explosions and boobs), but you get it along with all those things. Scott and Stonebridge are often times forced to deal with the emotional fallout of their jobs (basically government sanctioned mercanaries), and it is wonderfully played by Phillip Wincester and Sullivan Stapelton. A show I never expected to watch more than 2 episodes of, I look forward to each and every summer.

5. Saturday Night Live: Bruce Willis, host (NBC, Saturday, October 12 at 10:35 PM) — The Tiny Fey season premeire came and went last week with many good things and some not so good. This weekend, we have Miley Cyrus, but that’s not what I’m looking forward to. I’m looking forward to an episode hosted by John Freaking McLane! I don’t think any of us can know what to expect out of Willis, who has not hosted SNL since the season premeire of 1989. That’s right. 1989. That kind of uncertainty makes me very curious to see what he will have to offer.

4. The Bridge season 1 finale (FX, Wednesday, October 2 at 9 PM) — A show that started out maybe having a little trouble finding its groove, The Bridge has settled into becoming a very solid show for me. It show remains centered around the outstanding performances from Demian Bichir, Diane Kruger and Ted Levine, each of whom have stepped their game up even further as the season progressed. The show has never really been about the case, never really been about the “big bad,” at least not for me. For me, this show is about how Marco relates to Sonya, and the growth of that relationship has kept me coming back week to week, and will have me back next season.

3. Arrow (The CW, Wednesday, October 9 at 7 PM) — Another show that I honestly expected to watch 2 or 3 episodes of last year when it premeired, but quickly morphed into one of my favorite watches each week. Stephen Amell does a great job playing both sides of the Oliver Queen/Bruce Wayne character, and can kick ass with the best of them. The reason you come to the show though is for the amazing chemistry between Amell and David Ramsey, who plays Diggle, a combination of both Alfred Pennyworth and Commissioner Gordon rolled into one, as well as the third part of the crime fighting team, Emily Bett Rickards, who plays computer whiz Felicity. The addition of Felicity midway through the season was one of the things that really helped this show turn the corner from being a good CW show, to just being a good show, and one of the best action/adventure shows on TV. With the death and destruction that occurred at the end of last season, I can’t wait to see where The Hood goes from here.

2. Bob’s Burgers (FOX, Sunday nights at 730) — Again, a show that started in the last couple days of September, but just deserves some discussion. Bob’s Burgers, going into its 4th season (and renewed for a 5th by FOX), is simply the best animated show on FOX right now. It is the freshest, the funniest, and the one with the most heart. Bob’s Burgers actually shares many similarities in that way with a previous FOX animation great, King of the Hill. Many of the other FOX animated shows are all edge and offensive humor (Seth McFarland shows), but Bob’s Burgers is so much deeper than that, and, because of that, a much funnier show than any of the other Animation Domination shows.

1. The Walking Dead (AMC, Sunday, October 13 at 8 PM) — Another new season of TWD, another show runner. Moving on to season 4, and the third showrunner, Scott Gimple, TWD is coming off a season where it arguably hit its creative high point, and became the most popular show on TV (all of TV, not just cable). I would expect much of that to continue because, hey, who doesn’t like seeing zombies get stabbed through the head. But if the show wants to continue to succeed creatively, there needs to be continued character development and a story focus on the people, not just killing zombies. Questions such as, how do you raise a child in this environment? Or, how do you build a loving marriage through the zombie apocolypse? And, can we work together and build real community while living in the constant fear that someone could turn on us the way The Governor did? I’m far more interested in delving into the answers to these questions than I am seeing more zombies killed. But, maybe that’s just me.

-CJ